Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Out with the Old, In with the New

My 2013 in Review

2013 has been a very weird year with a lot of ups and tons of downs. For starters, it's the year that I decided to leave my Home Country (Mexico) if not for good, at least for a long time, I've been abroad for quite some time before but I always had a home there to come back to, this time, I don't. The family that I left there is people I no longer even consider family, instead, it's my friends that I consider my actual family. Anyhow, what's different about me leaving now is that, this time around, I have no intention to go back anytime soon.

The first few months passed by quite fast while I was dealing with a job I was getting too sick of, taking care of legal matters and things that now seem to be irrelevant. Hanging out with our closest friends and taking advantage of our time left together before leaving.  

A big thing this year was my Mom's passing 1-year-Anniversary; that was such a difficult Summer, it was sad and melancholic, and hectic, and whatnot, I couldn't (still can't sometimes) believe it had been already one year that Mom had left. Sometimes, I don't even know where/how that entire year went by, I don't know exactly what I did or how I even managed to survive. While still sobbing for my Mom, I was also busy making all the arrangements for what was going to be my new life, which included getting rid or my old home (and everything in it), many of my personal things, taking care of some legal issues I had (have) going on, preparing my 5-week trip to Japan and then prepare to make an attempt at settling down and making a new life in (South, obviously) Korea. Too much going on by then, internal and externally so, by the time I left Mexico, I was pretty worn out, but ready for a new adventure. Besides the whole trip itself, one thing that I was excited about was the fact that I was going to spend my Mumsy's Bday close to her (in the sky!) coz I'd be flying then. 

I was particularly sad to leave my house, rather than Mexico itself, because all of the memories I have of that house involved Mom and, after she passed, instead of feeling sad or weird being there, it felt cozy and safe; it might sound strange, I know, but that's how it felt and I liked that, I felt protected in a way. So, leaving that place and detaching from it was a bit of a difficult thing for me to do, but only at the beginning 'cause now I know all my Mom's memories are with me ALWAYS and everywhere I go, so after a few days it was just alright.

In March, my BFF came to visit me all the way from India, that was one of the coolest things in the year! Also went to see the Yeah Yeah Yeah's, one of my fave bands ever! And got even closer with my close friends.

Before leaving, I tried saying goodbye to all my friends (the few I got left anyway) but that didn't work out very well, all I can say now is that I did try because I knew I wasn't gonna see them again in a long time, but they probably didn't take that into consideration -or maybe just didn't care?- and didn't meet me to say goodbye. Oh well. I also got the chance to reunite with the family that we got left, went to Jalapa and saw some old friends as well.

So, we got done everything that had to be done, picked up our (HUGE!) backpacks, went to have our last Tacos with some good friends and then, there we were...at the airport...I wish I could say I was ready for it but I wasn't, in fact, I started getting really nervous about the whole thing and doubted myself and what I was about to do and this time, it would matter more because I wasn't by myself, this time, Gichef was with me and that changed the whole thing. However, I had no choice, what was done was done and I couldn't change it, so I just grabbed my passport, showed it to the airline people, went to find my seat, sat, took a deep breath and hoped for a brighter/happier future.

Many, many hours and just one short stop later (we left Mexico City on the 29th and arrived in Tokyo on the 31st!), we were on the other side -pun intended. We spent the next five weeks in Japan doing a WorkCamp and traveling, and -heat&humidity hell aside- I was completely ecstatic about it, I fell in love with Japan almost instantly. So, by the time I had to leave, I was a bit bummed out even though I was about to start -yet- another big adventure in Seoul, Korea.


The first few weeks days in Seoul, it was kind of hard for me to adjust, to be honest; I kept thinking of Japan and how much of a great time I had had there -which maybe made it even a bit more difficult. So, I got tired of "sobbing" around and decided to embrace the new place. Then, we started doing many things in the City and I started liking it. It took me about a month but I finally started loving Seoul. I am not particularly fond of birthdays but when my birthday came this year, I wanted to do something special, so Gichef and I went to my fave place in Seoul: Yeouido Park by the Han River, took wine, music and had a small birthday celebration -that's still one of my favorite days in 2013. The next day, we were off to Jeju Island and I was super excited about it since it was a place I was eager to visit.


When we came back, the vacation inception (vacation within the vacation lol) was over and we started working at the Korean (Media) Company that hired us -and for which, basically, we decided to give Korea a shot- and, even though it was hard, it was also fun as we were doing things that we liked and were (are) passionate about. It was hard because the Korean way of working is QUITE different from the Mexican way (if there is such a thing, anyway); or maybe Gisela and I focus too much on being good and efficient while Koreans only focus on being good and taking forever to get there, so it was very frustrating at times, but all in all, we really liked the job, with its 17-hour workdays and all! In the end, a personal fallout with the owner of the company (who was also Gisela's friend and our roomate) screwed everything up and we ended up quitting the job, not because we didn't wanna keep on working there, but because he made it impossible to have a "human" (cordial and respectful) relationship with him, so we felt forced to leave the job...and his house, on the same night.

Which led to us crashing at our Youngsik Oppa's studio for a week before flying out to Japan. That was a tough week, Seoul started getting quite cold and my Mexican self wasn't used to it so I suffered a bit, but I manned up and handled it lol During that week, we said goodbye to all of our new friends we had made as we thought we'd be leaving, if not for good, for a while. I couldn't believe it but I was really sad to leave, I was already in love with Korea and had made it my home so leaving  was overwhelming. Even though I LOVE Japan, I was miserable that week...for the most part, anyway. Then, we finally figured it out and a sign was given to us that we could come back...so we did. We were super excited about it!

We've been back in Korea for about three weeks now and even though I am happy about it, I can't help but feel a bit over nervous and overwhelmed as we're in a completely different situation; we had to find a new apartment by ourselves and are now looking for new jobs and doing everything in our power to make it work, though this time, there is no "safety net", it's just me and Gisela, Gisela and me, for good and/or for bad. Sometimes, I feel very optimistic about the whole thing and I'm sure I believe we'll make it, but there are these other times, when I feel quite the opposite and get kinda depressed about it. 

Now, I don't know what's going to happen this 2014 but I know 2 things: 1) I will not be going back to Mexico and 2) At least, I have my Perritow with me.

So, all in all, I think 2013 was a good year, not the best of course, but not the worst either, I even think it was better than okay and I feel VERY blessed for all the things that happened to me (both, good and bad), for everything I learned, for everything I gained (learning-wise), for all the opportunities life has given me to be where I am and, especially, for all the people I met and because I really never thought it would happen once more, but this year, I was HAPPY again. And I traveled a lot, with Captain Wodjah and my faithful (though quite heavy) camera by my side, as usual. Oh, and went to many concerts, which always makes me happy!

THANKS TO ALL of you who've always been there, no matter what and, of course, SPECIAL THANKS to Gichef, mi Perritow rockerow for EVERYTHING -LOVE you and ADORE you with all my heart! My life would definitely not be the same without you in it. You rock my socks!

Fun, funny, crazy, interesting, frustrating, sad, exhausting, scary, boring, exciting, happy, chillin', upbeat, relaxing...this is all year was; for all the good and the bad, thank you 2013 but please, close the door behind you. May this 2014 bring love and happiness to all of you!

New Year's Eve hugs + kisses for you all -LOVE YA!!!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

No Christmas Miracle in South Korea

I knew this Christmas would be different since, for starters, I'm not only in a different country than my own (Mexico) but this country, Korea, is in a different continent, QUITE far from home. And well, Koreans don't really care about Christmas. Sure, they start getting ready for it early on and you see tons of places with Christmas lights and decorations everywhere and all BUT, to Koreans...Christmas is pretty much it, well that and shopping, of course.

Having a completely different culture, Koreans see no real relevance in the Christmas celebration as the opposite side of the World (the Western) does; and while not the whole western may celebrate the same thing (Baby Jesus' Bday! lol), we all tend to focus this celebration on one thing: The Family. Here is different though; here, Christmas is for the couple to have romantic dates and whatnot, kinda like a Valentine's Day...weird, I know, but that's how it is. So, if you're Korean and are not in a couple, you don't really give a damn about Christmas.

For me, it was kinda sad cause Christmas is my ultimate favorite Holiday and not being able to celebrate it the way I'm used to (with food, basically haha) was a tad disappointing. I have to admit that, deep inside of me, lied this dream/hope that somehow, we'd have a proper Christmas Dinner with Turkey, mash potatoes, salad, cake, wine, punch, cyder, presents, etc, etc...you know, the way Rudolph + Mrs. Claus intended; however...that didn't happen. Sadly, no Christmas miracle happened (to me) in Korea. 

What did I do instead, you ask? Well, I went to this Hip-Hop party/concert and dropped it like it's hot until past 2am, yes sir! lol It's definitely not the way I imagined I would spend Christmas Eve, but it is what it is and I did start this 2013 with a YOLO Philisophy so, I went there and partied up and, at least, had with me the one thing that's a certainty in my life and that I'm always thankful for: my sister!

So, while there was no Christmas Miracle and I am not precisely where I would like to be at the moment (in life, not location wise), I am still pretty happy cause I know I am closer and I definitely feel much better, about myself and life in general, that I did last Christmas. And, if not a miracle, I'd say that's a pretty good thing! 

My sis + I on the Photoshoot for our Season's Greetings cards

Monday, December 9, 2013

A much-anticipated Yukgaejang + a Korean Funeral

My favorite -or one of them, I should say- Korean dish is 육개장 (Yukgaejang) which is a Spicy Beef Soup, I tried it for the first time at a Korean restaurant back in (K-Town in) Mexico City and I was hooked ever since. First of all, because -picky as I am- I was afraid of trying anything else that would be "too weird" or would gross me out; then, because of its tasty flavor, interesting combination of ingredients such as shredded beef, vegetables, scallions, noodles and more and last, for its spicy touch. For me, it has everything a delicious dish should contain, and the fact that it's served -boiling- hot is somewhat comforting. It is also similar to a Mexican dish called Mole de Olla, which -if you google- also translates as Spicy Beef Soup; though some of the ingredients vary, the result may be quite similar, so perhaps is the familiarity in it that I like about Yukgaejang.

Ever since I arrived in Korea, I was dying to have Yukgaejang but, the real thing, I mean, no matter how close it gets, a dish of a particular place will never taste the same as it does in its place of origin, you know? So I was pretty eager to have some Korean Yukgaejang. Funny thing is, finding a place that had it wasn't so easy...especially because I couldn't read Korean (I can now), but still, most of the places would offer every other Korean dish but the one I was looking for.

One of the must questions I get asked by Koreans is "what is your favorite Korean food?" and, of course, I always say Yukgaejang. Carmelia*, a Korean girls who is now a good friend, promised me she would take me for one of the best Yukgaejangs in town at a place she knows but, for some reason, we never got to go, until...

My last day in Korea (I am currently in Tokyo, Japan), bad news came through a message, Carmelia's Mom had passed away. She had been sick for a while and things weren't looking good for her, so the end was imminent; I was actually sad that I wasn't gonna be there for her when the time came -or so I had thought-, especially because her Mom was sick with Cancer so, as you can imagine, I felt/feel particularly close and related to the case, so I wanted to give my friend all my love and support because I know how much that means in a situation like that. I was really touched with the whole thing and always felt compelled to be there for her even though it was kind of hard for me because it was a bit like reliving my whole personal situation and going back there is -and always will be- quite painful. But I survived and am doing much better now, so I'm strong enough to give my support to a friend going through such difficult times. 

Needless to say, after the news, my sister and I headed to the Seoul National University Hospital's Funeral home. The funeral usually lasts around 3 days so people can come pay their respects but we were leaving the country so we went right away. We arrived and met Carmelia, she was dressed in a black Hanbok and she was obviously sad and distressed as well as a bit disoriented, coz you always are in  such circumstances, no matter how prepared you think you are. She was also busy taking care of the things you need to take care of in those kind of affairs as she's the responsible one in the family (I am seriously glad I had Gisela and didn't have to go through all of that by myself!), so she greeted us and then introduced us to a couple of friends and left to carry on with her duty. The whole thing was totally awkward, not only because of the scenario itself, but because it is always awkward going to a funeral, let alone a funeral in a foreign country -where you're not quite certain of the customary behavior. It was -obviously- my first Korean Funeral and I had no idea how to behave, other than respectfully, I mean. 

Carmelia said to me "now you'll get your Yukgaejang", I felt a hole in my stomach as it obviously wasn't the scenario I imagined I'd get it in and I wasn't even hungry so I said "no, thank you", to which she responded "it's customary", then all I could say was "okay then, I guess I'll have it" and so I did. Yukgaejang is offered at funerals for its -red- color, Korean people believe that the red color protects the holly soul of a dead body from the devils.

Now, I'm not sure if it's only because it was a bad Yukgaejang (you know, hospital food) or because of the whole situation added to it, but that was definitely a bad one, I completely disliked it, so much to the point that I think it is no longer my favorite Korean dish. Anyway, before leaving, I signed my name (in Korean, as it -somehow- seemed more respectful) on the guestbook, said goodbye to Carmelia and left with a bitter-sweet taste in my mouth; bitter because of the events and sweet because at least I knew I got to be there for her when she needed it the most, not for as long as I wished but at least I got the chance to try to comfort her a bit.

My friendship with Carmelia is the perfect example of how life can go from a joyful occasion to a tragedy, as we actually met for the first time at a (traditional) Korean Wedding and we said our goodbyes at a Korean Funeral.

*Carmelia is a fake name as she always prefers remaining anonymous. 
**I usually take my own photos for my posts, but in this particular occasion, I didn't take any so they're all borrowed from the internet.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Jeju Island

Jeju was one of the places I wanted to visit the most in Korea. I saw it a lot in Dramas I watched back in Mexico and ever since, I've been drawn to the Island. 

This year, I finally had the chance to go for my birthday and I loved it, though I believe my expectations were a bit too high as I didn't find it THAT amazing. And, please, don't get me wrong, I really did like it but maybe I waited too long to go there and instead of going during Summer time, I went when it was already Fall, so it was a bit cold and -very- windy, which isn't the ideal scenario to go to the beach, as you can imagine.

I visited several Beaches; Samyang Blacksand Beach, Hamdeok Seowoohong Beach and Gimnyeong Seongsegi Beach, the latter being my absolute favorite; it's just SO pretty, regardless the weather. I really wanted to take a swim but it was too cold so I just couldn't. I would love to go back when it's warm and give it a second chance.


BBQ is very popular in Korea and Jeju is known for its amazing Black Pork BBQ, so I had to try it. I went to Black Pork Street, where there are various BBQ joints and ate a place called Hwaro Hyang, which was very good and, even though the matron didn't speak English, she was very good at explaining things and stuff, which made the service quite satisfactory, not to mention the Black Pork was very good -you can totally tell the difference between that and the regular kind.

All in all, it was a good trip, you know, it's always fun traveling with my sister and getting out of the city even if it's for a little while -it always gives you a(n) -always needed- new sense of freshness.